The infrastructure plan is the litmus test for a president with 47 years of legislative experience who has known how to postpone his promises to carry out the most important
Those who don’t know the story are doomed to repeat it, but Joe Biden has starred in it too many times to ignore it. Eight years ago Barak Obama stellarly crossed the first six months of his administration with a 59% approval rating in the Gallup poll, compared to Biden’s 50%. Within a month of arriving, he had signed an economic stimulus plan for 787,000 million dollars that allowed the economy to relaunch after the junk mortgage crisis. His ambitious health reform was advancing from strength to strength. And then the August break came.
That was the moment when the dream of a country “in which there are no Democrats or Republicans, but the United States of America” slipped from his grasp. On the August 2009 holidays, legislators returned to their respective states to reconnect with their voters at traditional public plaza-style rallies and found the Tea Party at the microphone, angrily lashing out at public spending, “socialist healthcare,” and the so-called “death panels,” which in conspiratorial minds would decide who should live or die, as appropriate to state spending. By the time they returned to Washington, it was clear to many that supporting the president’s health care reform, dubbed ‘Obamacare’ by the Tea Party, would be political suicide.
In hindsight, those who worked with Obama admit that they let their ‘momentum’ pass by in awe of the mirage of getting a bipartisan deal. Biden was part of that government. He himself led the negotiations with the Senate, where the death of Ted Kennedy on August 25, 2009 was the final straw in the coffin of health care reform. The version that Congress approved the following year – without a single opposition vote – was so sweetened that a fiasco has been proven.
This Monday Biden will have a new opportunity to save that trap of history. The infrastructure law ‘The American Jobs Plan’ has been in negotiations for a month awaiting its vote in the Senate, where the casting vote of the vice president could save the tie to approve it by simple majority through the resource of budget reconciliation. In a Senate Solomonically split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, the ghost of Ted Kennedy hovers over Biden’s legacy. Any loss in the bench of the Democratic legislators would put an end to everything that the new president has on the agenda, because in such a polarized country, where Trumpist Republicans still question his electoral victory, it would be impossible to obtain an agreement, much less when the party does not even have a simple majority, which they only get with the support of two independent progressives. The sword of Damocles hangs over Biden and his place in history in this critical meridian of his first year.
The success of his government will be measured by its ability to carry out the infrastructure law that it considers essential to modernize the country, and which will face a new procedural vote after failing Wednesday’s threat. The eleven Republicans who feed Biden’s bipartisan dream say they are close to an agreement, for more than a month. On June 24, Biden tasted the honeys of bipartisanship when the commission of senators from both formations visited him at the White House to present a plan that reduced his proposal by half, but allowed it to be approved by an absolute majority without the need to resort to accounting tricks. of the Senate. The president left for a much larger additional package everything that does not fit in the bipartisan possibilities in exchange for the conservatives of his own party to pledge to vote for it.
The Republican senators who dazzled him, consider moderate in their formation, are the same ones who always boast of their ability to negotiate with the other side of the floor, but who almost never complete those pacts: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Rob Portman … None of them voted Wednesday in favor of the proposal. The leader of the Democrats in the Senate himself had to vote against to be able to give him a second chance tomorrow.
During these first six months of government, the president has concentrated the bulk of his efforts on saving the coronavirus crisis with two major responses. On the one hand, a massive vaccination campaign, which euphorically beat all expectations for the first hundred days, but has since run into the wall of skeptics and deniers, which has derailed the goal of achieving herd immunity for July 4. And on the other, a huge emergency economic injection worth 1,900 million dollars, also approved by the budget reconciliation resource, without a single Republican vote.
‘The American Rescue Plan’ is one of the eleven laws that the president has managed to sign in these six months, less than any other Democratic president since Roosevelt, who raised the bar to the record number of 76. And this is not only because the The country is more polarized than ever, but because 78-year-old Biden has the maturity and legislative experience necessary to know how to put all his aspirations on hold and thus avoid stirring the hornet’s nest of controversy, as happened with the health reform.
That is what would have happened if he had promoted immigration reform, or the law to contain firearms violence and reform the Police. If he had opened that Pandora’s box, he would have lost all his political capital to the ghosts of a Tea Party strengthened by Trumpism, which are no longer satisfied with intoxicating public opinion but taking over the Capitol.
All US presidents know that statistically the window to translate their ideas into legislative success does not last more than two years. In November of next year, the midterm elections will reduce the smallest majority that there has been since 1890 in the House of Representatives, where the Democrats only have nine deputies on the margin, and will probably snatch even the simple majority of the Senate that they only get with the casting vote of the vice president and the support of two independents.
Biden has made up for that legislative inactivity with the largest number of executive orders a president has ever signed in his first six months, 42, almost double that of the next, Johnson, and has also reversed 62 of the 219 that Trump signed in his entire term. -In comparison Trump only reversed twelve of Obama in his first hundred days. Covid-19 cases have been reduced by 73% after administering 140 million vaccines and 1.2 million people have come out of unemployment, which continues to skyrocket for the US with 6%.
In what he does not want to beat his predecessors is on Twitter, where he has crossed the first six months with 589 tweets, compared to the 26,000 that Trump launched during his presidency, at a rate of 18 newspapers compared to the six of the new president, which it probably delegates the function. The oldest president to ever enter the White House promised during the campaign to lower the temperature in Washington and has shown he has the patience and composure to do so. It remains to be seen if at that temperature he can cook the agenda that allows him to rest easy at the end of his term.